Examining Green with Industry Leaders

As more and more manufacturers develop and market complete green mattress collections, we asked a number of key manufacturers to share their perspectives. While many of these perspectives speak to their company’s unique offerings, it is important to note that growth within the “green” market is largely unregulated with manufacturers’ determining the greenness of their products.

1. What prompted your company to develop a green collection?

About eight years ago, my wife sent me to a store to buy a crib mattress (and other items) for our first grandchild. Being a Board Certified Environmental Engineer for over a quarter century, I was uncomfortable with the polyurethane foam and vinyl in every single model in the store. There were no alternatives (at the time). So I, together with my two sons, created an organic mattress line.
– Barry A. Cik, Technical Director, Naturepedic

The company was started 17yrs ago as being Green since we felt that the best way to have a better night’s sleep is to use natural materials. We then extended that to having organic products for 15 yrs.
– Ralph Rossdeutsche, CEO, Natura World

OMI began in 2003 with the purpose of making the purest nontoxic mattresses available. At that time, the term “green” was used to describe colors, not products. We started OMI to solve my personal quest to find a mattress that offered some relief from my chemical sensitivities. We were not a conventional mattress manufacturer that decided to add a “green” collection to keep up with the trend, which is growing every year. The OMI factory has been 100% dedicated to organic products since day one.
–Walt Bader, President, OMI

The impetus was a combination of the market research conducted by the SSA and Furniture Today regarding consumer demand for “certified green” products. In addition to a consumer preference for green, the research showed that a percentage of consumers are willing to pay more for a “certified green” product.
–Dennis Boyd, President, Boyd Specialty Sleep

As a consumer products manufacturer, we believe in reducing our impact on the environment and in demonstrating that philosophy. Our experience with developing “greener” or safer environmental products also has been one of the core competencies of our management team, both before and after joining Spring Air International.

Over the years, some of those developments have included the industry’s first use of natural latex and water based adhesives; the creation of the first mattress line to incorporate Oeko-Tex®-certified fabrics and foams, and the first use of sustainable wood foundations certified by Canada’s Forest Stewardship Council. In 2010, Spring Air became the first major mattress brand to achieve Level II documentation for our BioMax™ line as part of SSA’s Environmental and Safety Program™.
–Rick Robinson, President, Spring Air International

After conducting extensive research to determine what types of sleep solutions would benefit consumers most, Simmons launched Natural Care, our natural latex collection, in 2006, to fit the lifestyles of consumers looking for a more natural sleep experience that serves as a retreat for the body every night. We selected natural latex to provide consumers with a soft, supportive surface that helps eliminate pressure points across the entire body, in addition to being naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, mold and mildew. The material is also extremely resilient and enabled us to offer our customers a product that was both natural and the durable, long-lasting quality they associate with a Simmons bed.
–Anne Kozel, Specialty Sleep Brand Director, Simmons Bedding Company

We recognize the importance of environmental sustainability and take our corporate responsibility efforts seriously. While we do not call out a specific green collection at this time, our goal continues to be maintaining a balance between sustainability and product quality, performance and durability across our entire range of product selections.
–Dave Moret, Vice President of Research & Development, Sealy

We felt it was not only something consumers would respond favorably to, but we felt it was the right thing to do for the planet.
–Gerry Borreggine, President/CEO, Therapedic International

2. How have retailers responded to advances in this category? Is manufacturing driving demand or are consumers demanding it?

We can’t keep the retailers stocked fast enough. Naturepedic specializes in children’s products only. Consumers are demanding higher quality products that meet higher safety standards, especially for children’s mattresses. –Cik

We have driven our entire company based on natural and organic. Consumer demand is driving increased production and sales. —Rossdeutscher

Consumers are seeking out mattress options that not only have a strong sustainable story, but also help them achieve a more healthful, restorative night’s sleep. First and foremost, comfort is objective. All things being equal (referring to comfort and value), consumers are likely to purchase products with a “green” story. Add the fact that OMI is a true USA manufacturer, not an assembler or a company that sells direct, and our retailers have confidence that they are offering something unique. –Bader

There is clearly a segment of the consumer market that desires this category of product. This creates a market opportunity for retailers and manufacturers who wish to market to this niche. –Boyd

Retailers are positive and very receptive; however, many retailers and consumers remain confused on the topic.  Unfortunately, the market is being flooded with "green-like" products from dozens of producers—a situation that complicates the efforts of those companies that are working diligently on their own or with the SSA to live up to true "green" standards.  We trust that the continued efforts of the SSA, along with the ongoing examination of practices by the government, will result in more clearly defined standards that will help eliminate the green-washing in our industry today. –Robinson

Retailers’ initial responses to the Natural Care line were strong, and interest has grown consistently since our 2006 launch. Our Specialty Sleep division was created to offer retailers a broader selection of quality Simmons products to reach the variety of sleep solutions their customers were seeking. As a result, we design all Specialty products with consumers’ demands for customized sleep solutions in mind, and we’ve improved Natural Care to offer more comfort technologies than ever before. This year’s newly updated line reflects our focus on cutting-edge design, and the line emphasizes the fresh thinking, cool ideas and better technologies that fit the lifestyle of today’s consumer. And this focus has resonated well with our dealers. Currently, the Natural Care line is featured in Simmons’ Roadshow tour which will travel more than 10,000 miles over 20 weeks, visiting 35 retailers across the nation. –Kozel

Consumer requests for more green bedding options and information on sustainable products drives manufacturers and retailers. We continue to offer a variety of products to fit each individual consumer's preferences and needs. —Moret

Candidly, at this time we haven't had a hue and cry from retailers for a green product. However, we feel that if we make a compelling case for it, retails and consumers will respond favorably. –Borreggine

3. Considering your entire product line, what percentage is branded green (in one way or another)? Are there plans to increase/decrease these lines?

Naturepedic is a certified organic mattress manufacturer, certified under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). All Naturepedic mattresses are certified organic. —Cik

99% of Natura World's products are manfactured and branded green. —Rossdeutscher

OrganicPedic by OMI. Enough said. (100%) —Bader

Currently 15 percent is certified green through the SSA Safety and Environmental Program™. We plan to increase to 25 percent over the next year. —Boyd

With the emergence of certified foams like CertiPUR® and the prevalence of fabrics and foams that are increasingly more environmentally-friendly, we think our percentages—and those of the industry’s—will undoubtedly go up.  As an example, in 2002 there were only two fabric producers that shipped Oeko-Tex products into the U.S. Today, nearly every supplier offers certified fabrics. —Robinson

Currently, eight percent of Simmons’ Specialty Sleep division sales are Natural Care. We’ve spent a great deal of time analyzing our business and the industry and have determined that Specialty is where we stand to gain the most share. We’ve made a business decision to invest significant resources in growing our Specialty business through Natural Care, in addition to our ComforPedic memory foam line and adjustable bases, to offer our dealers the opportunity to significantly raise their retail ticket. –Kozel

At his time, we have one green, or eco-friendly product line -- EcoTouch. I believe that as this category matures, more and more raw materials we use to make our products will have a green story, or at least, a percentage of a green story attached to them. —Borreggine

4. Since introducing these green products, how have your product development and manufacturing processes changed?

Naturepedic does not permit toxic chemicals of any kind into our facility. For example, we don’t use any glues or sprays. Naturepedic mattresses are based on organic cotton batting and organic cotton fabrics. –Cik

We have become more efficient at dealing with the challenges of using green materials. —Rossdeutscher

OMI applies many of the same handmade mattress manufacturing practices as other companies. The major difference is that we start with the highest-grade nontoxic raw materials on the market. It’s like a chef selecting the freshest ingredients to prepare a gourmet meal.  The last few years we have experimented with new products that offer customizable, dual-comfort beds, as well as delivering a price point of $1,995 for a queen-size mattress. –Bader

We’re sourcing more natural and organic materials in fabrics and foams. We’ve streamlined our manufacturing process to create less waste, and we’ve lowered our freight costs substantially by re-engineering all of our products to be UPS-able. —Boyd

Every U.S. manufacturer is in a different stage of development on this. In the case of Spring Air, our 10 domestic licensees bring a wealth of product development knowledge to complement the corporate expertise we have in this area.  On the manufacturing side, there’s only so much room for multiple SKUs in a factory. If a plant is producing a successful and environmentally safe product line, then it makes sound operational sense to carry just one quality of foam if it’s the same price. —Robinson

On the manufacturing side, we’re equipping our plants to manufacture Specialty products, and we’re hiring more specialty-focused sales reps and delivering more and better training and sales tools. We continually seek to improve product development to ensure that these “green” products are not only providing a natural sleep experience, but a superior sleep experience when it comes to comfort. Our updated Natural Care line, launched in August at Market, now contains four models that feature Hypoallergenic Self-Response Natural Foam Technology, designed to provide personalized support and comfort by molding to a sleeper’s body shape and eliminating pressure points, and to promote airflow to maintain a comfortable sleeping temperature. We’ve also developed ventilation on the top layer of the mattress and, on some models, Independent Response Technology, which uses sculpted cushions that respond independently to a sleeper’s shape and movement for support and added airflow. Our foams now also feature natural anti-aging additives to extend the life of the mattress in lieu of using chemicals; think of it as an anti-wrinkle cream for the foam! –Kozel

We are currently embarking on a three-fold approach to reduce our environmental footprint across all product lines. First, we select environmentally friendly raw materials for our products. Next, we work to insure that our current operations, and the operations of our suppliers, are as environmentally friendly as possible. Finally, we seek aggressive recycling of any waste materials. A few examples of the steps we have implemented to date include:

Environmentally friendly material selection – Our lumber resource is certified to SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) or CSA (Canadian Standard Association) standards. This means reduced greenhouse gas emissions (by 10%) since 2000 and reduced energy consumption by 8% since 2003. 100% of the steel products in our sleep systems come from scrap-based recycled steel, and with our patented innerspring design, units can be compressed instead of baled meaning that more units fit into each truckload.

Reduction of waste in manufacturing and handling—We have Reduced Scrap of 72% per piece and counting, are investing in energy efficient trucks and logistics coordination that reduce fuel consumption by 10%, have an entire division that makes it their job to minimize the amount of product and materials going to landfills and are investing in energy efficient lighting on our plant floors

Intensive recycling of our waste materials—100% recycling of manufacturing scrap and our foam supplier recycles 100% of its polyurethane scrap. –Moret

The green story has had no effect on our production or manufacturing processes. We are dealing with green raw materials, which flow though our factories at an even rate, not any different than the traditional raw materials. –Borreggine

5. Where do you see the green category going?

The issue to consumers is not “green”, per se, as much as it is health and safety. Products that contain less questionable chemicals, i.e. “greener” products, are products that consumers will accept more readily. –Cik

The demand for green products I only see increasing. –Rossdeutscher

The future is encouraging for the natural rubber latex mattress category. The U.S. organic industry was valued at nearly $29 billion in 2010, which is up nearly 8% from 2009. Green buying behavior seems to be growing stronger every quarter and will not likely see a reversal. People want to do the right thing for the environment and for their families. People want choice. –Bader

Whether by government regulation, by consumer demand or both, I see the green category expanding in most industries. The trend is for consumers to feel socially responsible about their purchases. The challenge will be to produce green product efficiently so that the consumer does not pay a premium for it. –Boyd

Consumer support for a greener planet is real and growing. One of the biggest indicators is the sheer number of greener products and services that are advertised and sold today, versus even five years ago. It’s a consumer-driven market today and consumers are speaking, even if they don’t clearly understand what makes one product greener than another.

Overall, we don’t believe green is a trend or a passing social movement. It’s an established category of product that eventually will transcend the entire market landscape and continue gaining momentum over time. —Robinson

We’re in our fifth year of having a latex line, and we’re evolving our position to be more about personalized support and overall health and wellness. Our research has shown that improved health and well-being is a bigger driver of spending than environmental friendliness, though many consumers see a link between environmentally-friendly products and good health and well-being. As a result, we’re working to continually innovate Natural Care to remain an eco-friendly line that also provides consumers the health and wellness they’re seeking through a natural sleep experience. —Kozel

As sustainability becomes a growing concern for consumers today, manufacturers and retailers will need to continue to remain vigilant and transparent in corporate responsibility practices and offer more options to meet consumer needs, based upon the practical application of the most advanced technologies available. –Moret

My hope is that the bedding business gets greener, and that we increase our usage of sustainable materials. –Borreggine